Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

 Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky.

Sixteen years ago, a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky became a household name. This week, a now 40-year-old Lewinsky will tell all about her affair with President Bill Clinton in a Vanity Fair essay entitled “Shame and Survival.” The piece is available to digital subscribers today and on newsstands this weekend.

According to promotional tidbits, Lewinsky says it’s time “to bury the blue dress,” a rather wince-inducing reference to one of the more salacious details of the saga: that Lewinsky had a frock bearing carnal proof of presidential coupling. In the piece, she reportedly says she deeply regrets the affair, which was consensual, and that she feels her entire life has been charted by those few years of youthful indiscretion. In writing the essay, she says,  “I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”

Lewinsky says she was inspired to break her silence by Tyler Clementi, a college student who, apparently distraught after being filmed in a romantic interlude with another man,  committed suicide in 2010 by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge. Lewinsky says she could identify with Clementi’s anguish and the possibility that someone could be “humiliated to death.”

The buzz about the impending essay is formidable. The question now is: Will Lewinsky’s tale live up to the hype?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky, who for better or worse will always be Monica Lewinsky.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Media can bring both condemnation as well as redemption. Over a decade ago, a young Lewsinky had no control over with the media said about her. As she astutely notes, she was “possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.” Today, with the benefit of maturity and an auspicious media platform, she just might have a chance at rewriting her own footnote in the history books.

Internet Mogul Is a Media Mess

seanparker Internet Mogul Is a Media Mess

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for internet mogul Sean Parker.

Sean Parker, co-founder of the groundbreaking music sharing service Napster and first president of Facebook, is by many accounts a nice guy who these days is famous mostly for being really rich – and for earning bad press that gets worse when he tries to fix it.

You might recall Parker’s over-the-top, fairy tale-themed wedding in Big Sur last year that turned into a nightmare for him, and then some. Parker dug a deeper hole for himself by talking too much, authoring a 10,000-word defense that was as unintentionally hilarious as it was out of all proportion to the story.

Jump to last week and across the country to New York, where Parker’s snowbound Greenwich Village neighbors complained that the internet billionaire had the street torn up to have high speed fiber-optic communications installed in his $20 million pied-a-terre. Parker responded personally to the report, conciliatorily at first. But then came another story , another response, and another story. In the run-up, Parker got angrier and angrier, finally raising the true white flag of public press feuds – he called his critics Nazis.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Sean Parker and his lack of restraint. His publicist must be both stressed and lonely.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know when to fold. Parker’s overzealous pursuit of redemption through the press accomplishes just the opposite, sustaining the story and making him look guilty as well as petty. Back in the day, the popular caution was “Don’t pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel.” Now, with worldwide bandwidth mere keystrokes away, it’s all the more critical that you learn to grin and bear it. If you’re famous, accept that you will sometimes get bad press. Respond if you must, but in a manner that ends the conversation. And leave the job to your publicist so you remain above the fray.

Does Microsoft Need to Think Different?

Ballmer MSFT tablet Does Microsoft Need to Think Different?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft.

Pity poor Microsoft – no, really. Tech’s original 800 lb. gorilla may have shed a few pounds since its heyday, but it continues to punch well below its weight. And its PR strategy, such as it is, doesn’t seem to be helping much.

Consider this: While its Q4 2013 earnings, announced last week, showed enviable revenue and income gains year over year, they also included a $900 million writedown on unsold inventory of its Surface RT tablet computer, a hoped-for iPad killer. In response, it announced a management shake-up of its hardware division. Its stock tanked anyway, dropping 11 percent  and erasing $30 billion in value.

From a PR standpoint, Microsoft continues to fare the worst among seven tech giants caught up in an ongoing debacle over the US government’s Internet eavesdropping program known as PRISM. It ill-advisedly sought to use the breach to stoke competition, going after Google in a PR campaign promoting online privacy. That proved embarrassing after new disclosures surfaced that Microsoft helped the government circumvent its own encryption methods.

Institutional investors, dismayed by the company’s strategy and execution, want a seat on the board and a say in management. Of particular concern is succession planning for CEO Steve Ballmer, who has led the company since 2000. Microsoft says it has a plan but won’t disclose it.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Microsoft. Its half-measures, hubris and haughtiness suggest the need for a full-on PR intervention.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take a hard look within. A periodic full-scale review of PR strategy is essential, and best conducted by an outside consultant free from corporate groupthink, before a crisis. Microsoft is fumbling on basic issues management. It could have given investors succor with a mea culpa on its product writedown. It could allay the longer-term management concerns with greater transparency. It should have seen the folly in trying to capitalize on the privacy issue while damaging disclosures were potentially in the wind. Long-time archrival Apple has maintained goodwill in the past with public acknowledgments and apologies for its missteps. To quote its rival, Microsoft needs to “Think different.”

Facebook COO’s Post Crashes on Takeoff

sheryl sandberg Facebook COOs Post Crashes on Takeoff

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Go back 100 years: You’re ticketed on the Titanic, but at the last minute, you take a different ship. To let everyone know you’re OK after the star-crossed liner met its fate, do you A) write a letter, B) send a telegram, or C) hire an airplane and invent skywriting?

Pose that question to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. She and travel companions including her family were ticketed aboard the ill-fated Asiana 777 jet that crashed Saturday in San Francisco, killing two and injuring dozens. The Sandberg party switched flights at the last minute so she could use her flight miles for her family’s tickets. After the crash, Sandberg naturally turned to Facebook to post a message on her page to let people know she wasn’t on the plane. “Thank you to everyone who is reaching out – and sorry if we worried anyone. Serious moment to give thanks.”

Innocent and irreproachable, right? Not these days, not on the Internet, and not for so prominent a person. Her post drew 8,000 “Likes,” but elsewhere, the Twitterverse and news sites turned savage. “Sheryl Sandberg Successfully Makes SF Plane Crash About Herself,” one writer opined, further insinuating that it was for publicity at the tail end of her visit to South Korea to promote her best-selling book.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Sheryl Sandberg, for not checking with her internal compass, or maybe a corporate PR person paid to think about such things.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Shun association when tragedy strikes. Sandberg could have signalled the all’s-clear without publicly saying a word. In the personal reality show that is Facebook, she did what any of us would do. But doubtless few of us have over a million people following our posts. Nor does such a person have the luxury of removing a regrettable post. As the second most famous representative of the world’s most famous website, every public move has PR implications. Those who mattered most doubtless knew her post-crash status soon enough while for everyone else, the news could have waited until the fires on the tarmac were put out.

Yahoo Appeals to Its Own Vanity

yahoo logo 600 Yahoo Appeals to Its Own Vanity

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Yahoo! and its recycled ID plan.

Everything old is new again at internet giant Yahoo! Silicon Valley’s wannabe comeback kid announced plans to recycle unused account IDs to free them up for new users – a bone-toss to any user saddled with alphanumeric mouthful like johndsmith12345. “If you’re like me, you want a Yahoo ID that’s short, sweet, and memorable,” Jay Rossiter, Yahoo’s SVP for Platforms, announced on the company’s Tumblr blog.

Not everyone loved the news. Hackerphobes quickly raised concerns that recycling IDs could expose users to identity theft and other security threats. Traditionally account IDs are almost never recycled for fear that hackers can use them to gain access to other, still active accounts. A writer for Wired Magazine who has chronicled his personal experience with a crippling hacker attack called Yahoo’s plan “a spectacularly bad idea.”

Yahoo on the other hand, seeking to inject new enthusiasm into its brand and still fighting a “Your Father’s Internet” reputation,  promised that appropriate security safeguards were in place. But embarrassingly , when pressed, it couldn’t assert that the plan was hacker-proof. Yahoo is now left wiping spam off its corporate face.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Yahoo’s questionable plan and hedgy commitment to user security.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Prepare for the obvious. Coming as it did amid revelations of Internet spying by the government, Yahoo’s pitch to new users seems particularly poorly timed and bound to raise tough questions. Not even a PR magician could salvage what appears to be an ill-conceived, poorly-vetted plan. Besides the legitimate security issues, recycling user IDs seems slightly gimmicky. In the end Yahoo couldn’t vouchsafe on questions of security. The result? Yahoo looked desperate to make a splash and walked straight into a PR blunder.

Is Hillary Having An Unofficial PR Makeover?

Hilaryclinton Is Hillary Having An Unofficial PR Makeover?

The PR Verdict: "B" for Hillary Clinton and her ongoing unofficial PR makeover.

What is going on with Hillary Clinton? Are we seeing a PR campaign by stealth? Over the last month Madam Secretary seems to have been working on, what can only be described,  as an unofficial PR makeover.  Something’s afoot.

It all started with the photo of Hillary Clinton texting while aboard a C-17 military plane.  It went viral and comics in cyber space had fun creating harmless spoof texts about to whom and what she was texting.  Was it Beyonce?  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?  Or Condi Rice? Then much to everyone’s surprise, Hillary started tweeting directly, followed up by an invitation to the creators of the spoof texts to meet with her at the State Department.  Cameras ready?   Hillary now on Twitter and Tumblr!

Next stop: An unofficial photo from Cartagena, Colombia, while there for the Latin America Summit.  Photos of good ol’Hillary  dancing with her office gal pals for a colleague’s birthday after hours.  It made all the papers and she was having fun.  Nice one!  And while we are there,  it temporarily pushed the scandal of secret service officers and prostitutes in hotel rooms, off the front page. Yay!

The PR Verdict: “B” for Hillary Clinton and her ongoing unofficial PR makeover.  From the Cruella de Vil of foreign policy to fun Ol’Hillary.  It’s amazing what a tweet and photo can do,  particularly for the female vote in an election year.

PR Takeaway:  A PR image can only exist in one dimension for so long.  Hillary is tough and clever -we all know that.  But this gets old fast.  Something was needed to change the pace.  Her recent forays into social media have moved the dial on her popularity and likeability.  Hillary has another side.  See?  Who knew?  Is all of this really just a coincidence?

To read more about Hillary texting click here.  To see Hillary partying in Columbia click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on Hillary’s ongoing PR makeover?

[polldaddy poll=6132949]